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Volume 22 No. 43
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Suns, Verizon team for a tech ‘wonderland’

The Phoenix Suns are folding a wave of new arena technology inside a partnership with Verizon to create what the team calls a “technology wonderland” inside US Airways Center and featuring something unique among NBA teams: the league’s first scoreboard designed as a Verizon tablet.

Verizon’s brand wraps the video board at US Airways Center.
Photo by: PHOENIX SUNS (S)
To make that board presentation happen, the team has wrapped Verizon-branded siding around each video panel on the arena’s existing board. But beyond that visible centerpiece, the Suns-Verizon initiative will provide for a number of new in-arena technological enhancements.

The technology includes the installation of iBeacons; the use of Verizon’s Softcard technology (mobile wallets that store arena dollars and ticket upgrades); and multicast technology that provides for video replays through the team’s app.

Verizon and YinzCam have partnered in the operation of the app.

Additionally, the Suns plan to collect more fan-behavior data from visitors to the arena through Verizon’s Precision Market Insights product. That product will let the Suns target fans who have Verizon accounts with mobile advertising.

Verizon also will be involved in the creation of a player analytics system that helps track player performance. The company will provide technology to track player data as the Suns develop a “connected athlete” platform.

This system is not related to the NBA’s league-level deal with SAP that provides for player data tracking during games.

“What we are trying to do is bring all of the technology together in one partnership and package,” said Suns President Jason Rowley. “The branding is important, but the implementation is also important. There will be trial and error, but the whole point is to offer fans things that didn’t exist before.”

Verizon has been a Suns sponsor for the past three years. The new deal is a two-year agreement.

Not all of the technology will be branded, including the player data-tracking system.

“The collection of a high number of data points can help out our coaching staff and trainers,” Rowley said. “That is not for fan consumption. The idea is to do the research and see if there is a broader application.”

Pushing new uses of technology is not new for the Suns. In 2012, the team partnered with Verizon and Samsung to be the first NBA franchise to give coaches tablets for use on the sidelines.

“The Suns are technology focused,” said Tom Gainor, associate director of sales operations and marketing for Verizon. “Most people know Verizon as a company that sells cellphones, but we also have very unique business solutions. We can go and solve problems, and they are willing to try things.”

Verizon also has NBA team deals with the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz, but those deals do not provide for use of the Precision Market Insights product.

The company’s deal in Phoenix also provides for a media buy on local Suns TV broadcasts and in-arena signage, but Gainor said the focus is on developing technology.

“We are less interested in a traditional sports sponsorship and more interested in a technology partnership,” he said.